Thousand Oaks has grown--in size, population and social complexity--since Sgt. Kenneth Warren's rookie days 26 years ago.
So has Warren's employer, the Ventura County Sheriff's East Valley Division, which protects the booming cities of Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and unincorporated areas between the Conejo Grade and the Los Angeles County line.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 8, 1993 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 4 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong caption--A photograph's caption Friday incorrectly identified the head of the East Valley Division of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. He is Cmdr. William A. Wade.
In the mid-1960s, the East Valley Division had but a handful of deputies, based in a wing of the Moorpark Fire Station, covering all the communities east of the grade. There were no freeways and fewer than 100,000 residents.
Now the division is a $14-million-a-year force of 158 street cops, detectives and administrators who work from an ultramodern concrete-and-glass complex on Olsen Road in Thousand Oaks. They serve 159,623 people--nearly one-quarter of Ventura County's population.
Warren, back on east county streets as a patrol supervisor after working seven years in the sheriff's custody division, says he still loves the work and the region.
Tonight, however, he is slightly lost.
Warren steers his black-and-white cruiser down dark, twisting subdivision streets with his left hand, thumbing through a dog-eared Thomas Guide with his right to find the site of a reported auto accident.
The radio chatters with reports of vandalism, noisy youths, traffic violations, domestic squabbles. It has not shut up all night, Warren says.
"When I first started working out here in '67, there wasn't \o7 anything \f7 here," Warren says, glancing down to spot the address, then snapping off the map light.
"I used to be able to handle this whole city without a map, and now there are all these little dinky streets," he says. "Some of these new streets I haven't figured out yet."
Warren finds the street, then searches the curb for the house's address number painted in black on a patch of reflective white.
The numbered curb system is the product of a unique alliance between the police and the city. A sheriff's sergeant sits on the city's Planning Commission, reviewing construction plans on the principle of "environmental design," to ensure that Thousand Oaks' new neighborhoods are well-lit and designed to discourage crime.
The process governs everything from the quality of door locks to the potential hiding places created by trees and landscaping, said the officer, Sgt. Bruce Hansen.
"The purpose of my position is to look forward to what a project will look like when it's completed, and how to make it safe and secure," Hansen said.
Tonight, that planning has helped Warren pinpoint the address of the call.
He gets a quick briefing from the first officer on the scene, who tells him that an ambulance already came and went, carrying a woman whose parked car rolled free and broke her leg.
There's no need to stick around, so Warren cruises off to the next call--a plea for backup from one of the department's roving Special Enforcement Detail units.
An SED plainclothes officer in an unmarked Honda--assigned this night to cover traffic--has been tailing a car, following a fugitive from New York who is wanted on an armed robbery warrant.
The voice of SED Sgt. Dennis Carpenter crackles over Warren's radio, asking for a marked cruiser to back him up for the stop in case the suspect is armed or fails to pull over.
Warren flips on his flashers and surges down Moorpark Road.
In a flurry of red lights, the Honda and two black-and-white units pull over the suspect's car.
Officers order the burly young man out of the car, grab him and make him stand spraddle-legged on the sidewalk to be handcuffed and frisked. Then Warren rolls on, talking about the type of police calls his division must answer in the fast-growing region.
Police often arrest drunk and disorderly patrons outside a pair of nightspots that cater to young adults. They collar juveniles suspected of spray-painting graffiti. They have been making increasing numbers of narcotics arrests for possession and sale of PCP in Moorpark, where the powerful street drug seems to have become popular.
And perhaps most disturbing, they are still investigating a spate of armed jewelry store robberies committed by Angelenos who zoom into town in stolen cars, hit fast and hard, and flee down the freeway with their loot, later abandoning the stolen cars. The most recent of these was the February robbery of the Best Products Co. in the Janss Mall, where four men held employees at bay with drawn guns, smashed the glass display cases and fled with thousands of dollars in jewelry.
However, division Cmdr. William Wade says that this rash of crime by "freeway bandits" is the only sour note in what otherwise is one of the safest regions of the country.
FBI statistics show Thousand Oaks to be the nation's second-safest city of 100,000 or more in 1992, with an annual crime rate of 33.03 crimes per 1,000 residents.